The Baylor Lady Bears basketball team boarded a plane to fly to Kansas on Tuesday, equipped with all the internal motivation they needed.
Last week, the defending national champion Lady Bears got the chance to prove their merit at top-ranked Connecticut, then came home to jump back into Big 12 play against Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Now Baylor (13-1 2-0 Big 12), ranked No. 2 in the AP poll and No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, travels to play the Kansas Jayhawks at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in Allen Field House.
Kansas (11-3, 0-3) rolled to 11 consecutive wins to start this season, but since the beginning of conference action the Jayhawks haven’t come within double digits of winning a game.
The Jayhawks’ conference woes don’t change how Baylor approaches the game, though.
“Well, we just start over,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “We go and do a scouting report. We go on the floor and do a lot of stuff on the floor that we’re going to do defensively.”
Mulkey added that there are no guarantees in conference road games.
For the Lady Bears players, who started back to class this week for the spring semester, the road trip to Kansas is another opportunity to work on their craft.
“We can’t become content,” Baylor junior guard Moon Ursin said. “We just have to continue to play our style of basketball and get better with each game.”
Lately, Baylor sophomore forward NaLyssa Smith has emerged as a dominant force alongside Lady Bears senior star Lauren Cox.
Smith earned Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday after she scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the win over UConn, then followed it up by posting career highs with 30 points and 15 rebounds in the victory against Oklahoma State.
“Lyss has just been dominating,” Ursin said. “She has so much more potential and she’s already just great. Just being on the court with Lyss is so much fun. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.”
On Sunday, Mulkey showed a tendency to experiment with her team’s lineup. After Cox had a good perimeter shooting game against UConn, Mulkey played the senior forward at the wing for much of the second half against Oklahoma State.
Doing so allows Baylor to play three players who are 6-foot-2 or taller and open up the paint by having Cox play farther away from the basket.
“Actually, I do like that lineup,” Mulkey said. “As this thing has unfolded, the big lineup, one, can help us rebound and, two, it can spread the floor a little bit for you because Cox can shoot the 3 and the perimeter shot. I’ve worked on it since the UConn game in case we need to use it. But it gives us another option.”
The Lady Bears enter the road game at Kansas looking to extend their 43-game Big 12 winning streak. Mulkey continues to emphasize that her team’s priority is winning a 10th straight regular season conference title. That means taking every game seriously the rest of the way.
“We’re going to be prepared, we’re going to be focused and let’s go play,” Mulkey said.
BEAR FACTS: Lady Bears signees Hannah Gusters and Sarah Andrews, who are teammates at Irving MacArthur High School, earned McDonald’s All-American nominations on Tuesday. Additionally, Gusters was placed on the Naismith High School Player of the Year midseason team.